AP was the first UK outlet to get hands-on with Tamron’s new superzoom, which covers an astonishing zoom range and benefits from a light and compact form factor. Michael Topham tests the first working sample
Tamron 18-400mm f/3.5-6.3 Di II VC HLD review: Build & Handling
The appearance of the lens is in keeping with Tamron’s current line of premium SP lenses, though as one might expect for a lens of its stature it doesn’t have quite the same solid feel. The matte black barrel with its clear white numbering and lettering looks smart and its plastic finish contributes to its lightweight appeal. Towards the rear you get an additional seal around the lens mount to prevent dust and moisture creeping into the camera body and there’s a zoom lock that can be engaged at its widest zoom setting. This was rarely used as our test sample showed no signs of zoom creep in the zoom range when it was carried over the shoulder or pointed down.
On the opposite side of the barrel you’re presented with two switches that are easy to access with your thumb from behind the camera. The lower of the two is used to turn the lens’s vibration compensation system on and off, with the switch above it used to control AF/MF. Ahead of these is the large rubberised zoom ring that benefits from a short rotation of just over a quarter turn to operate it from its widest focal length to full telephoto. What this means in practice is that you can shoot wideangle shots one minute and quickly extend to full telephoto images the next with a single hand movement.
Though the zoom does operate smoothly between 18-70mm, a little extra effort is required to shift the optics between 70mm and 250mm. It gets a little easier again beyond 250mm to its maximum 400mm setting. As for the focus ring, this is found just in front of the focal length markings. The plastic is ribbed to enhance grip but isn’t rubberised like the zoom ring. It doesn’t offer the same level of resistance as the zoom ring either and works across the focus range with 45° of rotation.
The lens extends by approximately 110mm when it’s used at the long end. When you use the lens handheld at 400mm it’s best to rest the centre of the lens in your palm and pull your hand back slightly when the focal length needs to be adjusted. Support the lens too closely to the camera and you’re unlikely to muster the same level of stability.
Overall, the build quality and finish is of a good standard and it feels adequately robust for the audience it’s aimed at. You don’t get premium features like a focus distance window or a lens collar, but then again these features are rarely found on superzooms and are typically found on heavier tele-zooms at a higher price point.